The need to reposition Praslin as the “sought-after” destination and to help the island regain its popularity among visitors to Seychelles was among the main points of discussion during a meeting with some twenty hoteliers of Praslin that was chaired by the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, this week.
Minister St.Ange met the group of hoteliers and owners of tourism-related businesses from Praslin to discuss issues affecting the tourism industry of the island and to find ways together which can alleviate these challenges.
The call was made by the Praslin businesses for Praslin to unite to showcase a more cohesive approach to boost its own tourism industry and to make it blossom once more. This tourism meeting on Praslin followed the one held a week earlier on Mahe where general managers of the large five-star hotels had met with Minister St.Ange at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture ESPACE offices. It was at that meeting that the islands’ Tourism Minister had said that during 2016, he had decided that he would be meeting the industry by smaller groups to promote an open dialogue as he continues with his drive to remain connected with the industry. Minister St.Ange said this meeting forms part of series of discussions which will be held with owners and general managers of tourism establishments. He added that this is to better understand the constraints that these establishments and the industry continues to face.
“We felt it was important to meet in smaller groups, as this makes it easier to exchange ideas and to better understand what are the problems that your properties are facing, and to look at the development of tourism in Seychelles,” Minister St.Ange said. “These industry meetings will be over and above meetings with the Board of the Hospitality and Tourism Association, the SHTA, and also the door-to-door visits of hotels, large and small, that we have already started,” Minister Alain St.Ange added.
During that meeting, the Praslin island hoteliers have now agreed to meet up so as to create a website and use it to market not only their tourism products and services, but Praslin as a whole. The hoteliers also inquired about the Seychelles Tourism Board’s marketing strategies that can put Praslin back on the map.
The meeting held at the Baie Ste, Anne community center was also attended by the Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune, and the Chairperson of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, Sybille Cardon.
The cost of operations and cost to recruit a foreign workforce were among the points of concern that were raised. Discussions also centered on the yield from tourism, the government’s fuel levy, track record of employees, a marina on Praslin, and the question of Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP).
Minister St.Ange on his part used the opportunity to also speak on what was being marketed as the “Seychelles Brand” of tourism, saying that this is why he had requested that the meeting be moved from a hotel to the center of Baie Ste. Anne so that everyone can better appreciate what tourists see and hear when they are out of their hotels experiencing Praslin. On this matter, the tourism trade present spoke about the state of the roads, the inter-island ferry terminal, and the cleanliness of the island, among other topics. The Minister said that the back-up services for the industry, such as boat charters and the ferries, play vital roles in Praslin’s tourism industry. “This is why we need to promote every facility we have available such as historical sights, historical walks and tours, art galleries, and arts and crafts shops, over and above excursions we have today,” Minister St.Ange said.
With regards to the yield from tourism, the Minister said that the government was not telling the private sector trade what to charge for their services. He said that they were often guided by what competitors were doing and what the would-be visitor would be willing to pay. “Today we know from all surveys made that our visitors do not spend what they had budgeted for their Seychelles holiday, and this is because we are not providing enough to attract them to come out of their hotels to spend as they buy more what is ‘Made in Seychelles’ of new excursions that promotes what is off the beaten track. There is a need to find areas in the industry to invest in, so that tourists can spend their money instead of staying on Praslin for only five days or so and then going back home with their money still in their pockets,” Minister St.Ange said.
“We can have impressive visitor numbers, but the yield from that industry still does not go up. If we do want the yield to go up, we need to get tourists to spend money ear-marked for their holidays. As facilitators for the industry, we shall stand by you, but we need to be innovative and offer what will make tourists put their hands in their pockets,” the Minister said.
Speaking on fuel costs, Praslin hoteliers echoed that this must go down, as for tour and fishing boats excursions, this is expensive. The hoteliers added that as a result, the costs of these services was deemed too expensive, and tourists complain at prices for these services or they just do not use the services at all.
The GOP issue was another point of focus during the meeting, and some of those present repeated over and over again that they were not satisfied with the process in place for this needed permit.
As an example the hoteliers complained that when they apply for GOP for two years but pay for one year because of cash flow or other reasons, when the time comes to just have it renewed, they have to do the whole GOP process all over again and this creates many inconveniences. After much discussions on the pertinent issues raised by those who attended the meeting, Minister St.Ange explained that the industry needed to remain focused and that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the island’s Tourism Board would continue to be at their side. He said that he had heard their appeal on costs to participate at tourism trade fairs and that he would personally raise the issue with the CEO of the Tourism Board ahead of the annual Tourism Marketing Meeting that had been set for the first week of February. He also explained the details for closing the small information office at the Baie Ste. Anne jetty as the Board re-looked at the reorganization that will bring about a more conducive image of their staff on Praslin for an island wanting to be seen as the “sought-after” island by visitors.
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) . For more information on Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture Alain St.Ange, click here.